Global Affairs Canada (GAC) says it has detected an “information operation” targeting Conservative MP Michael Chong and it is “highly probable” — but not conclusive — that came from China.
A summary of the report says the detected operation occurred between May 4 and 13, 2023 – coinciding with Canada designating Chinese diplomat Zhao Wei in the Toronto consulate persona non grata, expelling him from the country.
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The expulsion followed allegations that Wei was involved in attempts from Beijing’s intelligence service targeting Chong and his family.
GAC says the WeChat network “amplified a large volume of false or misleading narratives” about Chong. In GAC’s assessment, nothing observed represented a safety threat for Chong or his family.
The RRM provided Chong with a briefing on Aug. 9, according to GAC.
Officials said one-third of the network involved known state-media outlets and accounts likely linked to Beijing. The remaining two-thirds of the WeChat accounts were anonymous and had not previously posted about Canadian politics.
“An analysis by the RRM to determine the possibility of state involvement revealed that, while China’s role in the information operation is highly probable, unequivocal proof that China ordered and directed the operation is not possible to determine due to the covert nature of how social media networks are leveraged in this type of information campaign,” the GAC statement reads.
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While the RRM is unable to definitively link the Chinese government to this information network, GAC notes it takes foreign interference seriously as it can undermine Canada’s democracy by discouraging parliamentarians from carrying out their duties and speaking out on important issues.
The report notes that it is hard to determine how many WeChat users are in Canada, it is estimated there are more than one million users in Canada.
The RRM estimates there are between two and five million users globally who viewed this content.
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